BIG SPRING, TX - A young Justin Jaegar needed an outlet to keep his temper in check.
Born with Down syndrome, Justin stated he became frustrated with the daily occurrences of life, often lost his cool. Whether it was interacting with others or learning a new task he often got irritated but then he discovered a hobby that would become his calling.
The 37-year-old stumbled upon knitting by happenstance. His congregation was performing a humanitarian mission in Prescott Valley, Arizona, and they needed people to make hygiene kits, quilts and hats for people in need, his father, Bruce Jaeger said. Once Justin learned the basic skills involved in making hats, he never looked back.
And he rarely lost his temper.
“All my life I’m making them and it keeps me calm and I’m not yelling and I’m not screaming,” Justin Jaeger said. “I’m trying to relax and do my hats in peace and quiet.”
“It’s very relaxing for him,” his father said. “He’s been doing it now for about 10 years.”
Gloria Talamentes, Justin’s Vo-Tech service provider at West Texas Centers agreed that knitting has had a calming effect. Once Justin finishes his classes and work activities are completed, he sits down and makes hats and beanies which he eventually shares with others.
On November 25, Justin will present 50 hats to veterans at the Veterans Outpost. “He’s very excited,” Talamentes said. “He was telling me the other day about his plans to give hats to people who need them. I think it’s wonderful.” She also remembers when Justin presented a hat to everyone at the West Texas Center Christmas party.
“It makes him feel proud of himself,” Talamentes said. “He feels that even though he lives with Down syndrome, that he can still do this. It’s exciting to know what he has accomplished.”
Justin even has a business card, she said. Justin can do custom ordering especially for his favorite team - the Green Bay Packers.
Justin’s dad said the hat making is something he just fell into but has been therapeutic as well.
“It’s not an active business but he does sell them, mostly word of mouth,” Jaeger said. “He can make about two hats a day. He’s pretty good at it.”
He even has brought more of his friends at the Vo-Tech Center into the fold. “He has encouraged a couple of friends to sit down and start making hats,” Talamentes said. “They have even brought their own hat frames.”
Another accomplishment that Justin is very proud of is being a member of the Planning Network Advisory Committee (PNAC) for West Texas Centers. Justin has served for two years and represents the IDD population, This committee is a diverse group of participants that include consumers, family members, providers and interested citizens, a collaboration of WTC staff, consumers, community leadership, and family members with individuals in services.
“Justin is a wonderful advocate for individuals with Intellectual and developmental disabilities," said Community Relations Director/PNAC Chair member Amy Vidal.
He attends every meeting and actively supports and works with members to accomplish PNAC functions. Justin purchases yarn at the store or finds it at garage sales. Several people have donated yarn as well. Anyone who would like to donate yarn to Justin may bring it by the Vo-Tech Center at 501 Birdwell or the Veterans Outpost, 3205 S. Hwy 87, Alan D. Harris building.
If anyone knows of a veteran who needs a beanie, they may stop by the Alan D. Harris building, Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
West Texas Centers serves as the local authority for mental health and intellectual and developmental disabilities for 23 counties in rural West Texas.
So what hat does Justin wear? “I don’t wear hats,” Justin said. “My hair is sensitive.”